Over three years, we engaged with over 215 local residents from London Borough of Tower Hamlets to tackle air quality issues in their neighbourhoods through collective community efforts.
What can we do about pollution? It’s such a large issue that we often feel disempowered because it seems like nothing any of us does on our own will have any effect.
Building on our early prototype, WearAQ, commissioned by OrganiCity to support people experimenting with air quality data and the Internet of Things to improve their cities, we deployed Pollution Explorers Toolkit as a series of workshops for local authorities to help tackle air quality, funded in part by Vertigo STARTS and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
The initiative aims to improve the environment in Tower Hamlets by working directly with local residents and authority in using hyperlocal strategies in their neighbourhoods that encourage long term collective behaviour change. People make sense of the quality of air through their innate subjective perception using technological tools, and more importantly, act upon them and collectively figure out ways to tackle air quality issues in their environment.
The staff involved and children were very positive and really enjoyed the whole experience. We are really lucky to get to do this with you. It is all good for raising the profile of the school. Our school council visited the parliament and hand delivered a letter to our MP about pollution concerns around our school and in general.
— Carol Doherty, Assistant Head of Marner Primary School
We believe that it is possible for individuals to work collectively on systemic issues, and that we should not rely solely on legislative changes. Our ambition is to mobilise people across different cities and boroughs to participate – every effort counts when it comes to improving air quality.
Through the engagement, participants shared personal experiences of air pollution, made a statement on the air quality with their own physical actions of recording perceptual data using wearable technology and helped to assess air quality and generate data where it was ‘missing’, in order to make sense of their own impact to the environment. Participants were also further challenged to make action pledges that they could take every day to tackle air quality issues in their neighbourhoods. Their actions were tracked through a custom designed prepaid postcard that they filled in and returned to Umbrellium for analysis.
The initiative has demonstrated that people’s ability to assess the quality of air is fairly high in some instances, and a high percentage of participants have shown dedication in committing to an action to tackle air quality for a short period of time in their everyday life, with 90% of them carrying out the committed action they pledged to do for 7 days consecutively.
Special thanks to:
- All 200 local residents and students from Tower Hamlets who helped explore air quality around their neighbourhood.
- Carol Doherty, Assistant Head / Shine Project Manager of Marner Primary School
- Iram Quraishi, Community Programme Director from LoopLabs
- Caoimhe Goggins, Community Coordinator from LoopLabs
- Tower Hamlets Council
- Participating teachers from Marner Primary School, Bonner Primary School and English Martyrs Roman Catholic Primary School
- Teviot Community Centre
- Mudchute City Farm
- Usamah Khan, data scientist
- Nurri Kim, filmmaker
- Mara Balestrini, technical advisor